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PhD candidate, National University of Malaysia (UKM)


Aquilaria malaccensis or agarwood is a Malaysian woody tree which is valued for its aromatic properties. It is widely used as incense in rituals and in cosmetics especially in perfumery industry. Agarwood is also used in oriental medicine as stimulant, cardiac tonic and carminative agent. Overexploitation due to high demand imposes threat to the natural resource and so forth being listed in IUCN red list of threaten species. Generally, natural plant extracts containing fragrances (inclusive of agarwood essential oil) are expensive and scarce in nature. It is therefore hypothesized that metabolic engineering could overcome this problem by enabling the transfer of the secondary metabolites biosynthetic pathway either partially or completely from the origin into host such as bacteria to produce the target compounds at desired titres. Hence, this study was carried out to produce the aromatic compounds of agarwood in Escherichia coli using metabolic engineering approach. The key odorant compounds in the fragrance of agarwood has been identified and the responsible genes were isolated and characterized. Subsequently, the genes were expressed in microbial host following metabolic engineering approach. It was determined that the expression of the aromatic compounds has been increased to almost 10 folds compared to in the native agarwood source. This research could serve as a platform for future researches on fragrance compounds production in controlled microbial system.